What They Say:
For thirty years, companion robot Hoshino Yumemi has patiently waited to show someone the stars. Left in an abandoned planetarium, she sits hoping for customers that will never show. That is, until a Junker—a plunderer of goods and artifacts from the ruins of civilization—stumbles upon the crumbling establishment. Will he help her repair the planetarium, or will she be alone once more?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 mix, both of which are encoded in the Dolby TrueHD lossless format. The project in both OVA and film form are pretty straightforward where it’s focused more on the dialogue and the mood music than anything else but it handles it well with some good placement and movement as needed. The bigger action bits are pretty brief overall but they have a bit more oomph to them, especially the 5.1 mix, to give it a pretty good feeling of impact with the shots and machinery. The music has a good warm feeling to it throughout and the mood created is spot on. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this project is in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The OVA series is on its own disc and the movie on the other, giving it more than enough room. Animated by David Production, the project has a really good look that you’d expect for something coming from a Key/VisualArts work with the character designs and settings. With it focused on the character side and mostly dialogue, that allows it to have some really detailed backgrounds throughout and its key moments to stand out, such as the planetarium and the like, giving it a very rich feeling throughout. The encoding captures all of this really well since so much of it is focused on overcast exteriors or somewhat dark interiors while throwing in some vibrant pieces here and there – especially with Yumemi and her design. It’s an appealing looking project throughout and a very solid encoding for both sides of it.
The packaging for this release comes in a thicker than standard Blu-ray case with the four discs for the two formats held on hinges. The case comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork with its focus on Yumemi but the cardstock gives it a lighter look overall and highlights its details better I think, though both look great. There’a distinctive look to the design to be sure but I like the angular look of aspects of it and the way the darker contrasts the soft white background. The back cover goes for an all white background with a cute shot of Yumemi along the right and a nice small selection of shots from the project along the middle. The use of the gray banner along the top is nice and the back cover highlights the digital side of it. The summary of the premise is well covered as are the extras. We also get two technical grids here with one for the OVA series and one for the movie. While there are no show related inserts included with it we do get a nice two-panel spread of artwork of Yumemi holding the world on the reverse side.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal overall, which mirrors the Japanese side for the most part, with the clean closing sequence and some of the Japanese commercials for the project.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the game that came out in 2004 in Japan and got a larger worldwide release in 2014, Planetarian is an interesting project in that we got a five-episode web OVA series across the summer of 2016 that was followed up by a film. The OVAs are varying in length but as a whole it was just about ninety minutes or so. The film takes all of that and adds about twenty minutes as it provides bookends to it and mixes new material into it, giving us a bigger picture of events instead of the smaller snapshot that is the OVA. Normally, I would just go for the film and ignore the OVA but I watched the OVA series first and really enjoyed it, which left me wary of trying to figure out how they would blend the film together and add the new material. While I did fast forward through a lot of the OVA material I had just watched, I really liked the expanded look of it as well. Both present a different view of hope amid the darkness and create very different feelings in the viewer.
The project almost feels like an extended Twilight Zone kind of property or something more akin to Black Mirror in the modern sense. We’re introduced to a gynoid named Yumemi that works in a planetarium where she does presentations for families and others that come there. She served faithfully for about fourteen years before things in the world went south and mankind began its full on path to extinction. She’s since spent the past twenty-nine years in a sleep mode of sorts amid the decaying “sarcophagus city” where thanks to a limited amount of power that still exists in the specialized building she’s able to come to life for about a week each year while hoping everyone will return. It’s a simple but properly tragic story set amid the ruins.
What changes events for her in this iteration is that a scavenger known only as a junker, or customer to Yumemi, arrives while avoiding some dangerous weaponry that had been following him in the city. While he’d been warned by someone else to avoid this place and this gynoid before, the junker naturally slowly ends up spending the time there because it is communication of some sort and he feels a sense of tragedy about her that he can’t quite look away from. The junker is the standard struggling person with a heart of gold that tries to do right by someone who time has left behind and it works well as we see him interact with Yumemi, understand where she came from a bit more, and work to try and help her out for a bit while figuring out his next move in getting out of this city.
Realistically, you can see how this plays out easily enough but it does it in a way that’s engaging and well done, making it a worthwhile journey that offers a sliver of hope at the end but one tinged with some real sorrow, not just for the junker but for the fact that so many died and the world ended up this way when there are so many wonders out there. It’s a small story, unlike the film that followed not long after the OVAs finished with Planetarian: Man of the Stars. This one takes us decades into the future where we meet the junker at the end of his life, having spent his years being a storyteller and carrying on Yumemi’s memory all that time and sharing what she shared with him. There’s a different kind of tragedy in watching him find a small village that’s doomed since there aren’t any men life to move life forward with and just a trio of kids who see little hope here. The junker provides them with a look at what lies out there in the skies they can’t see and hopes to pass the torch to them. Seeing him somewhat fulfilled here but also unable to seemingly change much in reality, particularly noting there are under a hundred thousand people left in the world, brings its own tragedy. There is that hope to it though with the kids, but it has a grander sense of a tragic ending because of the big picture.
Projects like this where it’s an OVA and a film that adds more material generally bother me because there’s too much repetition and a been there done that thing while trying to figure out what’s new. Here, there’s a lot of new that’s blocked out in a great way so that you can engage with it directly. The heart of the story is in the OVA and the tale it tells is really enjoyable as a small tale. The expansion of it in the film to give us a bigger picture ends up creating a greater sense of tragedy overall but that core heart is still there and it will definitely give you the feels if you allow yourself to be open to it. I love the look of the property overall with what it does in the character designs, the backgrounds, and the pacing of it all. It hits a certain sweet spot that I like with a Twilight Zone/Black Mirror aspect that I grew up with and enjoy more modern takes on. Funimation’s release looks great, includes a solid dub, and comes in a really nice little package that will please fans. It’s one of those under the radar kind of shows that I think needs a good bit more attention, deservedly so.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Closing, Commercial
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: August 14th, 2018
Running Time: 211 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.